Imprisoned ex-Ohio Speaker Householder indicted on 10 new charges, 1 bars him from public office

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, left, walks to the Potter Stewart Federal Courthouse for his sentencing hearing, Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Cincinnati. Imprisoned ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was indicted Monday, March 25, 2024, on 10 new felony counts brought by the state, including one that would ban him from holding future public office. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)

By JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Imprisoned ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was indicted Monday on 10 new felony counts, including one that would ban him from ever holding public office in the state again.

The fresh indictments brought by the state extend action in what was already the largest corruption case in state history.

The 64-year-old Householder was convicted of racketeering in June for his role orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme funded by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. in exchange for passage of a $1 billion bailout of two nuclear plants owned by one of its subsidiaries. He was sentenced to 20 years, which he’s serving at Elkton Federal Correctional Institution near Youngstown, and has appealed.

On Monday, a Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted Householder on the additional charges, which include alleged misuse of campaign funds, ethics violations and a theft in office charge that would block him from working for the government.

“This case seeks to hold Mr. Householder accountable for his actions under state law, and I expect that the results will permanently bar him from public service in Ohio,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in announcing the indictments. “State crimes have state penalties, and a conviction will ensure that there will be no more comebacks from the ‘Comeback Kid.'”

Householder served two separate terms as speaker, in addition to holding county office.

His attorney, Steven Bradley, said they had just learned about the indictment and had yet to speak with Householder. “We hope to do that soon and will determine how to best proceed,” Bradley said.

The state indictment alleges that Householder misused campaign funds to pay for his criminal defense in his federal case and failed to disclose fiduciary relationships, creditors and gifts on required ethics filings, including in relation to the bailout bill, known as House Bill 6. Specifically, Householder faces one count of theft in office, two counts of aggravated theft, one count of telecommunications fraud, one count of money laundering, and five counts of tampering with records.

Two fired FirstEnergy executives — ex-CEO Chuck Jones and Senior Vice President Michael Dowling — and Ohio’s former top utility regulator Sam Randazzo were indicted last month on a combined 27 counts as part of the state’s investigation, led by the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission. All three pleaded not guilty.

Householder, lobbyist and former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, and three others were indicted on racketeering charges in July 2020. Borges was convicted alongside Householder last summer and sentenced to five years. He has also appealed.

Lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth, a top Householder political strategist, pleaded guilty in October 2020 and cooperated with the the government in its prosecution. The third person arrested, longtime Ohio Statehouse lobbyist Neil Clark, pleaded not guilty before dying by suicide in March 2021.

The dark money group used to funnel FirstEnergy money, Generation Now, also pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in February 2021.

All were accused of using the $60 million in secretly funded FirstEnergy cash to get Householder’s chosen Republican candidates elected to the House in 2018 and then to help him get elected speaker in January 2019. The money was then used to win passage of the tainted energy bill and to conduct a dirty-tricks campaign to prevent a repeal referendum from reaching the ballot.